Last night, I wasn't surprised to find someone had posted a comment saying my review of the preview of James in the Africa Bible Commentary "crosses over into racism."
There is such a thing as racism and I'm no stranger to being accused of it myself, nor to accusing others. But when made against a Christian, the charge is serious. A Christian racist has committed a significant part of the error of the Judaizers that the Apostle Paul fought throughout his ministry.
In the book of Galatians, the Apostle Peter didn't just aid and abet the continuation of circumcision when he suddenly stopped eating with the Gentiles in the presence of the Jews (Galatians 2:12). He also chose racial segregation. This is why the Apostle Paul's great egalitarian (in the right sense of the word) declaration appears in his letter to the Galatians:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Racism has always been with us and it won't die until Christ's return. Yet this is no excuse for fatalism or a lack of self-scrutiny. It's a godly and necessary work to expose it within the Body of Christ because it denies the inclusive love of God Who says His Only Begotten Son was given for "the world" and that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile.
Sadly, though, the relentlessness of the charge works against repentance because it's hard to take such charges seriously anymore. Too many cries of "Wolf! Wolf!" It's become a ploy to silence critics rather than a call to make our hearts right before our Christian brothers and Heavenly Father.
So, substantive debate and mutual criticism across America's black/white racial divide languish. Fearing almost nothing as much as the terrible specter of being called a racist, Christian men today talk across the chasm with great circumspection and there's almost no humor or loving communication between us. Everything is about power and the only safe words from whites to blacks are words of self-abnegation and apology:
I apologize for my ancestors who participated in the slave trade.
I apologize for my grandfather who fought in the Confederate Army during the War between the States.
I apologize for my father who sat on the session of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi when the session publicly stood for segregation.
I apologize for my own racism.
I apologize for my own latent racism.
I apologize for being white. But hey, I love Tony Evans' preaching--does that help?
Obviously this list mixes tragedy with comedy. No one thinks being white is a sin, do they?
Maybe not, but I'm not sure. A guilt that can never be expiated finds the most twisted ways of seeking relief. I've met a fair number of whites who loathe their whiteness and play the black.
So isn't anyone tired of this one-way street? Is there no one who dreams of the day when what matters is not the color of our skin but the content of our character? This communication straitjacket will never lead to the sanctification of either part of the Body of Christ here in America.
It reminds me of being a child, growing up among Arminian preachers and teachers who always preached and taught in such a way as to lead me to believe that the presence of sin in my life meant I'd not yet asked Jesus into my heart, and what I needed to do was ask Him in once more, but this time really mean it. They had no doctrine of progressive sanctification, so I spent my childhood asking Jesus into my heart, desperately hoping this time I really meant it.
Christian blacks and whites need to get off this train. It's destroying any hope of true community or growth among us and we can't afford to live separately any longer.
When I wrote that a commentary claiming to be of Africa and for Africa needed to address AIDS orphans and the Rwandan genocide at places in Scripture where the text has obvious application to them, and that white South Africans should not be blacklisted from joining in the work, I was not treating my brothers in Christ in a patronizing or racist way.
Rather, I was addressing Africans as Christian brothers worthy of the dignity of criticism. I will not apologize for doing so--not because I'm stubborn, but because I love my brothers in Christ who are black.